Winter 2019 Anime: Official Twitter Hashtags & Pages
2018 is almost out, guys and girls, and that means that another anime year is ready to take its place.
Penguin Highway will start showing in Japanese cinemas on 17 August 2018. It follows the summer adventures of 4th grader Aoyama-kun, who tries to solve the mystery of penguins appearing in his town.
The movie is based on a novel by Tomihiko Morimi and is directed by Hiroyasu Ishida, who gained attention for his short animation Fumiko’s Confession in 2009 when he was still in university. This time he has challenged a full-length animated movie. He became familiar with Morimi’s novels while he was a student, and said he was worried about working on such a memorable work. With the movie having just opened in Japanese movie theaters, they both looked back on the process of making this movie and back on their own childhood.
(Interview and Article by Hitomi Okumura)
Ishida: When I was at university, many people recommended me his works, saying ‘Tomihiko Morimi’s novels are interesting!’. That’s why I started to read The Tatami Galaxy and Night is Short, Walk on Girl. My friend always strongly recommended Penguin Highway. Anyway, around that time my friends were really into Morimi’s works.
Morimi: Thank you very much [laugh]
Ishida: So when I went off to university in Kyoto, where most of Morimi’s stories are set, these stories became an important part of my student life.
Ishida: No, no! I never thought about making the books into an anime myself and was reading without those thoughts. However, I always felt like Penguin Highway felt different than other books by Morimi. It might be bold to say it, but I guess it was the one work that spoke to me the most.
Morimi: It just matches well.
Ishida: Yes. I thought it was drawing a picture on its own. It is something that can be drawn beautifully, funny and interesting.
Morimi: To be perfectly honest, in the beginning, I had strong doubts. I couldn’t imagine how an anime would portray all the feelings that are in the original novel like the bright side and the sad side, the darkness and eerie moments. More so because Penguin Highway is an important story for me since it has its source in my own childhood. I was cautious and wondered if I should give it to someone else. But director Ishida kept sending me his plans and showed so much enthusiasm and motivation for it, so I thought to myself ‘Let’s try and be as motivated as Ishida!’.
Ishida: M-My enthusiasm reached you! [laugh]
Ishida: I feel like I sent a big amount of material over, so I had to split it up. Thinking about it now, it might have been overwhelming and a bit hot-blooded to send the author of the original story so much material… [laugh]
For this anime, I wanted to show the beauty of the world that the boy sees. Penguin Highway was the perfect work for that, but I was in no way fixed on this project or thought ‘That’s the one!’ because I didn’t have enough confidence. It is a very charming work, but for me personally, it also had many parts I was worried about, so while I thought it was good, I had to let it go at the time. The more I thought about it the more I wondered if I would be able to depict the real intentions Morimi had with the book, even though I was focusing on the source. However, in the end, my desire to turn the story into an anime weighed heavier than my worries.
Morimi: I see, you had many worries. I can say it now, but when I received the first draft there were some things that didn’t fit, so I refused an anime adaptation once. However, when I received the next draft with more material, my impression changed.
Ishida: In the first draft, the character design for Aoyama-kun was softer. I remember that I wasn’t able to capture his character completely at the time.
Morimi: He felt more like a content country boy. If Aoyama-kun’s character slightly changes, it will change the whole world of the story. So the first proposal was in high danger of changing things. Aoyama-kun’s character improved greatly with the next proposal. I could feel how serious Ishida was about the work. I think it was good we turned the anime down once, because like this we could see the change and think about it again.
Ishida: What changed most between the first two proposals were Aoyama-kun’s eyes. The first Aoyama-kun had very round eyes. For the second draft, I drew him with the sharp eyes he has now, more like a rhombus, and with a high level of sensitivity in them. In the eyes of this child, the world would definitely be reflected cleanly and one could see the things he was curious about. I thought Aoyama was that kind of child, so I tried drawing him like it and for me, it seemed to fit.
Morimi: Aoyama-kun is a character that can see the world the way I saw it when I was a child. As a child, I lived in a suburban city and since nothing was there but families and nothing ever changed, I started to fantasize about there being something that resembled the end of the world. I always felt that I wanted to write down the landscape and wild ideas I had in a novel, so I tried writing something like it in a novel that I wrote before my debut with Tower of Sun, but didn’t really know how to. It just didn’t have that sparkling, mysterious feeling that I had imagined. I thought a lot about it, wondering what kind of a main character could bring out those feelings and reproduce the views I had and that’s how Aoyama-kun was born.
Morimi: While writing, I kept adjusting things and so Aoyama-kun’s point of view came into focus. I think it became more and more possible to write this work by learning what kind of novel it should be and by learning how I could write what I wanted to write. One of my novels is called Night is Short, Walk on Girl where the main character is the Girl and through this work, I realized that the point of view is important because if someone sees it as special, the world actually becomes special.